Review: ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2’ – A Narrative Attempt Shrouded in Slasher Violence, Revealing the True Horror of IP Exploitation

This time, there are three storybook beast creatures, yet Rhys Frake-Waterfield’s role feels more akin to that of a packager than a director.

Winnie the Pooh Blood and Honey 2 Tigger

For over four decades, audiences have flocked to theaters to witness the spectacle of individuals being terrorized by various psychopaths wielding chainsaws, Halloween masks, goalie masks, burnt skin and striped shirts, fedoras, or adorned with S&M nails. So why not add Winnie the Pooh to the mix?

“Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey” stirred up some controversy — or rather, free publicity — for daring to take beloved children’s characters and thrust them into the heart of a slasher film. However, the concept was the most intriguing aspect of the film. Despite being made on a modest budget of $50,000, it failed to generate genuine scandal or emerge as a sleeper hit at the box office (it premiered on 1,652 screens and only grossed $1.7 million overall). On paper, “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” seemed like an extreme TikTok video, but in execution, it was amateurishly directed and poorly paced, lacking both scares and laughs. The film fell short of fully realizing its satirical premise, failing to convincingly depict killer versions of the beloved characters created by A.A. Milne. Instead, audiences were left watching a slasher with a rubbery Winnie the Pooh mask that bore little resemblance to the iconic character. (In fact, it more closely resembled Christopher Cross.)

Yet, in its mere existence, “Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey” heralded a bold new frontier for the horror genre. The rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh characters had been under the ownership of the Walt Disney Company since 1966, during a period when Disney was acquiring children’s classics at a rapid pace, akin to Pooh greedily consuming honey from his jar. However, the first of the Pooh books, published in 1926, entered the public domain in the U.S. on January 1, 2022, paving the way for Rhys Frake-Waterfield to commence shooting his horror-infused curiosity just three months later.

Frake-Waterfield’s concept echoed the type of parody found in adult entertainment, where films play off existing titles with suggestive names like “Pulp Friction” and “Legally Boned.” While “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” wasn’t pornography, it did serve as a blood-soaked exploration of exploitation cosplay. Its primary horror lay in its ability to illustrate how effortlessly cherished intellectual property could be debased into mere trash.

I’d be less cynical about this if the “Winnie the Pooh” horror films were imbued with a hint of the transgressive artistry found in Damien Leone’s “Terrifier” films. However, that’s not the case. At their core, these films are generic slasher movies. Some early reviewers may argue that “Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2” is an improvement over its predecessor because of its larger budget and expanded storyline. However, storytelling is not Frake-Waterfield and screenwriter Matt Leslie’s strong suit. While the film boasts more lavish cinematography compared to the first installment, and even features a recognizable actor in the form of veteran performer Simon Callow, the narrative sprawls without much coherence. Callow, appearing haunted and speaking in a Scottish accent, elucidates to Christopher Robin how Winnie the Pooh and his fellow creatures became what they are. According to him, a deranged doctor abducted local children and infused them with animal DNA, a plotline reminiscent of “Island of Lost Souls.” However, this backstory contradicts the narrative established in the first film, presented through imitation A.A. Milne drawings.

While “Blood and Honey 2” may seem to have a lot more going on, let’s not deceive ourselves—it’s mostly a mess. One year after the 100 Acre Massacre, the entire town of Ashdown points fingers at Christopher Robin, blaming him for the tragedy. This plot point seems questionable, as Christopher Robin is portrayed as a nice individual, and the film fails to fully explore this accusation, aside from showcasing Chris as a walking trauma case. In the first film, Nikolai Leon was fitting for the role, but now Scott Chambers takes over, giving off vibes as if auditioning for “The Ed Sheeran Story.”

The sequel introduces more creatures and ramps up the chaos, featuring increased dismemberments, decapitations, and face gougings, particularly during the climactic rave sequence, which leaves the dance floor in ruins. Pooh, now played by Ryan Oliva and redesigned, maintains his signature attire but with a more sinister-looking face, resembling a homicidal version of Jim Carrey’s Grinch. Owl, portrayed by Marcus Massey, dons a royal crow costume reminiscent of “Eyes Wide Shut” and speaks with an air of aristocratic evil. Tigger, played by Lewis Santer, makes his appearance at the rave sequence with a nearly identical face to Pooh’s, though he possesses slashing claws and exudes a Tiggerish energy reminiscent of the legendary character.

Rhys Frake-Waterfield, while technically a filmmaker, could be better described as a British schlock aficionado. In 2021, he departed from his job at an energy company to delve into the realm of packaging low-budget horror films. In a span of just two years, he churned out an impressive 36 features with titles like “The Loch Ness Horror,” “Snake Hotel,” “Alien Invasion,” and “Medusa’s Venom.” Up in drive-in-theater heaven, Herschell Gordon Lewis and Ed Wood might be smiling, albeit with a touch of amusement, as Frake-Waterfield’s work might not quite measure up to the likes of Scorsese and Spielberg. Nevertheless, there’s no denying his shrewdness and ambition as a packager. He has unveiled ambitious plans to launch the Poohniverse, which will feature films such as “Pinocchio Unstrung,” “Bambi: The Reckoning,” and “Poohniverse: Monsters Assembled.” While the prospects for these films may be uncertain, one cannot deny Frake-Waterfield’s boldness in venturing into uncharted territory.

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